Spot, the successor to P*ong and Batch 13 St. Mark’s Pl
(between 3rd Ave & Astor Pl)
Manhattan, NY 10003
Neighborhood: East Village
Astor Place (6)
8th St-Broadway (R, W)
3rd Ave-14th St (L)
Mon-Wed, Sun 11 am – 12 am
Thu-Sat 11 am – 1 am
Not wheelchair accessible.
I’ve been to Pichet Ong’s late, lamented hole-in-the-wall dessert shop, Batch (and have the handmade letterpress business card to prove it) but never got around to writing a review of either of his establishments on Waverly before they closed. Walking down St. Mark’s Place recently, I came upon Batch’s more easterly subterranean reincarnation as Spot.
Down a staircase and into a courtyard, there is a small retail space with wood paneling and faux rough-hewn benches and tables in the dining area, wooden, multi-paned front door, and a lot of contrivance in the atmosphere if not in the food, which just wasn’t part of the program at Batch, which came by its higglety-pigglety atmosphere naturally.
Like more than one well-known dining establishment in my own hometown, it can be said of this establishment that it is “an artsy place masquerading as a dive masquerading as an artsy place”. This is not meant as an insult (I met the designer of this and other “concept restaurants” on my first visit there) you just can’t design true grityness. That said, it is “nice”, seems very clean, and you probably don’t have to worry about vermin.
What it lacked in visual history and distinctiveness, it made up in “the human touch”. The service was very helpful. When I explained that it was my first time there, the woman working at the counter told me about the ingredients of several items, gave recommendations, and let me try several of their ice cream flavors. The Vietnamese Coffee ice cream is an extremely assertive coffee flavor, the condensed milk ice cream, though much less so, has distinct possibilities, and while I was initially reluctant to try the mango and Thai chili ice cream, when I finally screwed up my courage and took a tasting spoon, I was relieved to discover that the “mango” was at least as strong as the “chili” and these flavors provided a very nice compliment to one another, with the chili giving the sweetness of the mango an exciting little snap instead of overpowering it.
Spot puts the ingredients of traditional Asian desserts into Westernized/internationalized forms: elements as yuzu, mango, and calamansi make regular appearances on the menu, but in ways which had probably not been dreamed of in Asia.
As at P’ong, there are a selection of handcrafted gourmet cupcakes with a delicate coating of iridescent edible glitter dusted on their tops giving them a slightly magical quality, evoking the British appellation of “fairy cakes”. (How I wish Pichet Ong had been selling these desserts when my sister and I were little girls and “into” this sort of fantasy.)
At the time of my visit, Spot was offering a couple of advertised specials, one of which was a glass of Bubble Tea and a cupcake for only $5. I decided to try the yuzu cupcake and enjoyed its faint lemon-orange flavor. The calamansi iced bubble tea was good even though I didn’t taste the calamansi. Highly chilled and richly brown, it was served in a big glass with a generous helping of the tapioca pearls that make bubble tea what it is and necessitate an extra-thick drinking straw.
(I declined the green tea cupcake, fearing that green tea wouldn’t “translate well” even if it was accented by an apricot jam center and chocolate pearls atop the olive drab frosting.)www.spotdessertbar.com